My last visit to China was in 2004, when I accompanied my friend Pam to pick up her adopted daughter (and my namesake), Julie. She had just turned 2 and was terrified when we first met her. We went to the orphanage’s “offices” in Guanzhou and one-by-one, in alpha order of the parent’s last names, the babies were brought out by their Ayas (aunties/nannies) and handed over to their new parents.
Most of the Ayas sobbed as they handed over their charges. The grief of handing over babies that they had been caring for since birth must have been utterly crushing. What sobers me as I think about this 7 years later is that the nannies go through this separation process multiple times a year, as the adoption process in China is like an assembly line – its 24/7 365. Tens of thousands of children, mostly girls and children with special-needs. The humanity of this act alone is worth a moment of thought. We humans are not good at managing change and separation – it hurts us deeply. Often these are hurts that never fully go away. Love is incredible.
My heart strings aren’t up for plucking on this trip. I’m going to China on business, meeting many of my new team mates for the first time, planning what to do and how to succeed for 2011. Brain work, not heart work.
I’m pretty sure, however, that when I walk the streets of Shanghai and look into the eyes of the women who remind me of the orphanage nannies I encountered in Guangzhou, my heart will start singing a familiar tune all over, reminding me that I’m long overdue to go to Ottawa and hold my namesake in my arms for a long, long, time.